This post was updated Dec. 26 at 10:42 p.m.
PHOENIX — When it came time for the Bruins’ final game of the season, their offense looked a little different without star quarterback Josh Rosen.
But UCLA football’s defense looked exactly the same.
A Bruin team that finished last in the Pac-12 in rushing defense struggled to stop the run again in Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl, which Kansas State won 35-17.
“It’s kind of really frustrating,” said senior defensive lineman Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. “Going throughout the season, trying to stop that talk that’s going around for the UCLA defense, seeing that happen for the last game – it was frustrating. It was disappointing.”
The Wildcats tallied 345 yards on the ground on 49 carries, including five runs of at least 20 yards and a pair of touchdown runs dialing in at 41 and 68 yards apiece.
For the first half of the game, it looked like Devon Modster was going to be enough.
Projected first-round pick Josh Rosen was sidelined due to concussion concerns, thrusting Modster into the starting quarterback spot for his second start of the year.
“Josh wanted to play,” said coach Jedd Fisch. “Josh was unable to play because of the fact that he had two concussions within a four-week span in November, and our physicians didn’t feel comfortable putting him out there.”
Modster sent his team to the locker room with a 10-point lead. The redshirt freshman quarterback completed 10-of-15 passes for 215 yards in the first half, including a 70-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Theo Howard and a 52-yarder to redshirt junior Jordan Lasley.
But UCLA football saw its double-digit advantage fade away over the course of under three minutes of game clock late in the third quarter. Kansas State scored its first touchdown of the second half on a one-yard run from quarterback Alex Delton on a drive sparked by a 37-yard run.
Junior running back Bolu Olorunfunmi fumbled on the ensuing drive to give the Wildcats the ball on the Bruins’ 24-yard line, resulting in another touchdown.
“Some self-inflicting wounds,” Fisch said. “I think at the end they kind of wore us down a little bit. They just held the ball and held the ball and we didn’t have a chance, and we needed to convert.”
Kansas State would add two more touchdowns in the second half, in which UCLA never scored.
“I think I just threw too many incomplete passes,” said Modster of his second-half play. “That’s pretty much it.”
A foot note
Punter Stefan Flintoft continued his solid 2017 campaign with an average of 44.8 yards on his four punts. The redshirt junior placed the ball inside Kansas State’s 10-yard line on three of his kicks.